Shahidah Ansari shares her passion and energy by sharing her journey with us – for her, fitness means family. Her mother, Helen, has been a fitness professional for over 30 years, and introduced Shahidah to Zumba® Fitness. Shahidah has been part of the Z Club NY family since the very beginning, a part of the Zumba® family since the very early days, and now shares her talent and story with her own family, and with us! Here, she shares her about path, her experience as a Zumba® Jammer, Presenter, and Talent….and of course, as a mom... — by Yali Szulanski for Z Club NY.
When did you start dancing?
I started dancing Ballet, Tap and Jazz when I was 5-years-old.
What did you see yourself growing up to be as a little girl?
As a little girl I had dreams of being an Olympic Swimmer. At some point I realized
that I would probably never be an Olympian, but I did swim for 16 years all the way through college.
What guided your evolution into fitness?
My mother guided my evolution into fitness. I grew up watching her train and compete in competitive aerobics competitions. When old enough I started taking my mom’s spin, Aerobics and yoga classes. After graduating college and getting a full-time desk job, I had little-to-no time for the gym or sports and there was a huge void in my life. When the opportunity presented itself, working in the fitness field seemed like a good fit.
How did you come across Zumba® and start working with them?
My mother introduced me to Zumba® Fitness. I was at her house when she came home from the ECA Convention hyped about a new fitness craze, she had never seen anything like it in her 30-years of working in the industry. She raved about the two presenters she met, Tanya Beardsley and Gina Grant. Shortly after Beto came to New York City to do a few classes and I was hooked! I love to party and workout, so the idea of a Fitness-Party blew my mind. I became a licensed ZIN Member in February of 2009.
Can you talk about your experience working as a ZJ™ – training with Beto, working in the fitness concert, being featured in ZIN™ DVDs? – anything you’d like to share about the experience.
I’ve been a Zumba® Jammer (Choreography Specialist) since 2010 when the program was launched. Being a ZJ™ has really given me a platform to explore my creative side and help instructors within our Zumba community become more successful. From 2013 to 2014 I was a ZJ Coach/Trainer who licensed new ZJs to teach ZIN Jam™ (Choreography) Sessions.
In 2012 Zumba Fitness announced that Beto was looking to select a group of Zumba Jammers for the Fitness-Concert at the Zumba Instructor Convention in Orlando. In Zumba-Land that’s like the Super Bowl of Zumba! I put together a couple of routines and sent in a video. Weeks went by until one day I looked at my phone and had a missed call from a 305 number, then a few minutes later got another call from the Zumba Office.
It was Beto and Lucia, our ZIN Jam™ Program Specialist calling to tell me that I had been selected! A few weeks later I was on a flight to Miamito dance with 15 Zumba Jammers from all over the world: France, Germany, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus, Brazil, Sweden, Hawaii, Canada, Arizona, Italy, Israel and me from New York. It was VERY hard work, but we had some laughs along the way too. We practiced with Beto six hours a day with only Sunday off for three weeks and did boot camp lead by
him as well after our rehearsals. I learned a lot working with Beto and have a great deal of respect for him. Once we got to Orlando
and it was time for the big show, we took our places on stage. I was standing up on a platform behind a giant Kabuki curtain. The music started and seconds later the Kabuki dropped…it was GO TIME! With all the training we did, nothing could have prepared me for the rush of adrenalin that hit when I saw 8,000 people
in the audience. I felt very connected knowing that my mother, sister and friends were in the crowd. During the show we danced with Vanilla Ice to Ice Ice Baby. Just as w e got to the end of the fitness-concert, Daddy Yankee came out for a surprised performance and the crowd went wild! After that Beto invited the team to perform with him again in L.A. and Lille, France. In L.A. we danced with Pitbull.
As for the Zumba® DVDs, I’ve been a part of a few that go out worldwide to members of the Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN). ZIN Volume 42 Live, 48 Live and on the One-on-
One for ZIN Volume 51. ZIN 42 was really cool because it featured all the dancers from the Fitness-Concert with Beto and it was the first time in the history of Zumba that all the music was crossfaded on a ZIN DVD, so all of our entrances and exits were choreographed to the crossfade.
ZIN 48 was filmed Live in France and featured ZES, ZJs and ZIN members working together as a team. Filming the ZIN 51 One-on-one was a cool production to be a part of. Zumba Fitness really goes all out to make sure that their talent is comfortable and feeling good. Beto used one of my routines for the official Super Girls Choreography with some minor changes. As a ZJ there’s no greater honor and I was simply grateful for the opportunity to share my work.
What inspires you about working with Zumba® and teaching the format?
The thing that inspires me about Zumba is that it’s FUN and embraces many different cultures in a positive way. It’s fitness, but it’s about being happy and uplifting the spirits. In today’s world, I think everyone could benefit from a little Zumba®.
Can you talk about how you created your programs/presenting at the Convention?
In 2013 & 2014 I presented ZIN Jam™ (Choreography) Sessions at the Zumba® Instructor Convention, I spent a lot of time in the studio developing new routines and practicing. Instructors travel from all over the world to learn and presenting to them was a great honor, I felt Blessed to be able to share my choreography. In 2015 I presented a flavor, Absolute Funk, with my colleague, Clotilde Martin (Zumba Education Specialist) from Paris.
The session consisted of music from James Brown to Pharrell. With the recent popularity of songs like Uptown Funk, it was really cool to be able to share the history of Funk music and apply it to the the Zumba Formula.
What is your biggest inspiration in life?
My biggest inspiration in life is my family. They keep me going, grounded, motivated and there’s never shortage of love. My husband is so supportive, I really lucked out. Also as a new mom, my son has given me a whole new breath of inspiration, strength and clarity to simply be the best version of myself for my loved ones.
How did Z Club NY enter your life?
I met Edmee when I was referred to another fitness facility where I became employed, she was a group fitness manager there at the time. When she opened Z Club NY she invited me to join the team so I’ve pretty much been with Z Club NY since the it opened.
It must be amazing to be able to work with your mom in the same industry and share so many special moments – can you talk about how Helen has influenced and inspired you as a teacher, as a ZJ™, as a mom?
Yes it is amazing to be able to work with my mother. My mom is a great mom, but she’s also a good friend. We cheer each other on. My mom always tells me how proud she is, but I’m also very proud of her too. Her love, strength, compassion and realness are things that I admire. My mom has a very special way with people and she’s never afraid to be 100% Helen. She has always influenced me to be myself, there can only be one of everyone and as a Zumba® Jammer it is important to be unique.
Can you talk about your observations – being a part of the Zumba™ community for so long, what have you noticed over time? What is the community like in your classes?
Over time I’ve noticed that Zumba® Community continues to rock! In some of my classes I have students who have been with me for over 5 years and attend class religiously, in other classes I see new faces every week. My class is all about leaving your ego at door, freeing yourself of judgment and shaking your booty! The more you let go and have fun, the more you sweat!
What was your experience while continuing to teach during pregnancy?
My experience while continuing to teach during pregnancy was overall rewarding, but not always easy. Teaching made me feel good and happy. My goals were to have a healthy baby and make a fast recovery postpartum, staying active was a key part in that. Throughout my pregnancy I had to take extra time to make sure that my body was properly nourished, hydrated and well rested. I really appreciated the support I got from my students old and new, I’d joke and say…”I bet you’ve never seen a pregnant lady get down like this!” lol.
What kind of lessons/values to you hope to pass along to Enzo? Do you want him to follow in your footsteps?
The lessons/values I hope to pass along to Enzo are that true happiness comes from within and to treat others as you would like to be treated. I want my son to pave his own path, figure out what he’s passionate about and work towards that. But I do hope that a healthy lifestyle will be part of the plan for my little man.
Please share any story, idea, wisdom you’d like to pass on from your years of teaching and dancing…
I would like to share the story of my student and friend, Alena Shifrin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yqq7Tnj5o8Q